Il Cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione

(2001) 11 min.

Double string quartet


Il Cimento dell'armonia et dell'inventione' is the fourth in a series of recent works of mine that 'revisit' musical masterworks of the past. We are surrounded today by these works but in ways completely unlike when they were writtten: rarely in concert, but commonly behind movies and television shows, in doctor's offices and shopping malls, in elevators and while on hold on the telephone. This kind of exposure to these works gives us an interesting relationship to them: we have in some ways become highly acquainted with them, while at the same time have developed skills to tune them out - to put them in the background, to 'unlisten' to them.

'Il Cimento dell'armonia et dell'inventione' is the subtitle to Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons', a work published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti. It has become one of the best known classical works on the planet. The subtitle refers to contrast between reason and intuition, rational thought vs imagination, thought vs emotion - artistic contrasts which are as relative today as in Vivaldi's time. The Four Seasons have become somewhat of a commodity today as exemplified in such things as a recent ad in which the virtues of a new Saab convertible are compared to the movements of Vivaldi's work.

My work, scored for eight stringed instruments, quotes, misquotes and alludes to various parts of Vivaldi's work and other eighteenth century musics and musical devices, these 'earmarks' contextualizing the rest of the work. Its three movements (fast/slow/fast) follow the form of most of Vivaldi's concerti. The work was commissioned by Vancouver New Music through the assistance of the Canada Council.

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